INTERVIEW: Kirkland Ciccone on strange towns, the Scottish psyche and pandemic publishing

It’s been a wee while since the last interview here on the Scot Lit Blog but we’re back with a bang. Happiness Is Wasted On Me has been one of the stand out novels for us over the past year so it was a proper treat to have a chat with the man behind the book, Kirkland Ciccone. I’ll leave it to the interview to do the introductions…enjoy!

‘All I wanted to do was write books and tell stories when all my friends wanted to be marine biologists!’

Born and raised in Cumbernauld, like main character Walter in Happiness Is Wasted on Me, Kirkland attended Cumbernauld High School….just like Walter. ‘This may become a theme!’ Kirkland says when he spoke to Scot Lit Blog earlier this month. To anyone who has read Kirkland’s first novel marketed for adults [he already had four YA novels before it] there’s much of his own story that will be familiar to fans of the book. ‘All I wanted to do was write books and tell stories when all my friends wanted to be marine biologists. I just wanted to see my books on the book shelf in libraries or bookshops. But it just seems so unlikely because, as a working class person, it’s like you’re more likely to go to the moon than get a book published, you know what I mean?

‘Anyway,’ he continues with something that can only be described as infectious enthusiasm, ‘In High School I decided I wanted to be a journalist.’ [Just like Walter]. A stint at college to study journalism and PR followed before Kirkland turned to performing one man shows at Cumbernauld Theatre, ‘I turned up one day and said, “I hear you’re looking for talent – Ta Daaaaa! And they never threw me out! So I started doing live stories. And I was so shy, I would literally read from a Pukka Pad. But it was actually really good, because if the audience didn’t throw glasses at me I knew it was good, and if they were bored and threw things then I knew the stories were bad.’

From there Kirkland began touring theatres across the country all the time continuing to write and try to get a book published. But it just wasn’t happening. Then, in a conversation already full of sentences I didn’t see coming, he declares, ‘So then I got a job as a psychic consultant.

‘It was through word of mouth and I would turn up and read people’s future at parties and stuff. It was a good way of working but eventually I started to get jealous of people that worked in shops and had nine to five jobs.’ And then, like Walter, Kirkland got a job in a library.

Despite not intending to go into writing YA, he started around about the time Twilight was a huge deal globally and something about it appealed. With a book written, the publisher that eventually picked him up was Strident – ‘because they were closest,’ Kirkland adds a wee bit wryly. ‘My thing was weird YA, like the weirdest, strangest things. I just loved the idea that teens were getting sort of punk rock fiction fed in to their brains, the stuff that I wanted to read at that age. But the problem with the books is that they got progressively weirder to the point where they’re unreadable. And, you know, at some point I decided that I couldn’t continue writing that stuff. I just wanted to say something about the world around me.

‘I wanted to write an adult novel and I wanted to become cult. But I never realised you can’t just become cult, other people have got to make you cult. Basically, I wanted to be a cult author of adult fiction. Happiness Is Wasted On Me is the first time where I felt like I knew what I was doing and it’s the first book that I’ve written that I’m completely happy with.’

Once the book was finished it was sent off to Scottish indie Fledgling Press, which had already published a number of books by Kirkland’s friend Alex Nye. ‘I feel like Scottish publishing had taken awhile to catch up [to everywhere else], and I don’t think they were ready for me before. But I also had to be ready to tell that story as well.’

‘I love how Cumbernauld Town Centre is kind of like David Bowie’s Labyrinth where you just walk down some stairs and around a corner and end up in a different world.

While Happiness Is Wasted On Me is full of memorable moments and characters, arguably the strongest aspect of the whole book is Walter himself. Not least because of his relatability to anyone that hides away from real life among books and pop culture. A quick skim through reviews of the book and you’ll see that this element of relatability and likeability as a character pops up fairly frequently.

Kirkland said, ’A lot of people feel that Walter is very real and very likeable (thank God!). He is based on me to an extent but he’s not me – he’s less confident than me I would say. He’s not an avatar. It’s not like I’m living my life through him. The truth is, he makes a lot of mistakes in the book, he’s quite distant and very socially awkward, which wasn’t me at all.

‘I felt like if you’re going to have a protagonist, they don’t always need to be likeable, but for this book I felt the best way to get people to empathise with him was to try and make him as likeable as possible…but not perfect. I just wanted to try and write him as normal as possible even though he’s not a “normal” person. Because everything he represents puts him on the outside of everything around him. He’s at the window looking through the glass or reading a book in the background while people are fighting in the living room in front of him. 

‘I just drew from real life incidents too so that autobiographical element probably makes him feel more real to people as well.’ 

While Walter is a brilliant character, vivid and real, another huge element of the book is the setting: Cumbernauld. While it’s often used as a punchline both at home and elsewhere due to the number of times it’s won the Plook on the Plinth award, among others.

Kirkland said, ‘Cumbernauld is a strange, strange town. They made it with flat roofs because they thought the sun was going to shine forever, in the middle of Scotland, one of the rainiest countries! And the town centre is extremely ugly. People get insulted when I say that and think I’m taking the piss but the truth is that’s what I love about Cumbernauld. It’s what I’ve always loved about the town – how weird it is, how strange, how ugly. 

“Cumbernauld Town Centre” by The JR James Archive, University of Sheffield is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

‘It has a real personality. I don’t think I could have come from anywhere other than Cumbernauld. It really has informed my personality a lot. I feel like I really embodied the town. I felt awkward, I still do, and not quite put together, but that’s why I felt a deep emotional connection with Cumbernauld town centre building in particular. 

‘I love how it’s kind of like David Bowie’s Labyrinth where you just walk down some stairs and around a corner and end up in a different world. It’s strange but I love that. I still feel like there’s lots of it that we don’t know about – like you could knock down a wall and find a shop that hasn’t been touched for 40 years or something. I would love to take the Most Haunted crew in with our torches and have a look around.

‘The town itself is so personality packed that it does become a character in the book. People who’ve lived in Cumbernauld and have read the book have contacted me to tell me that they can feel the town in the DNA of the book itself and that’s the best compliment that I can think of.’

‘We were all drawing on the same kind of cosmic force’

Something that’s clear in Kirkland’s work is the very fine balance between darker topics and difficult parts of life alongside the lighter parts that keep you going. Happiness Is Wasted On Me opens with a young schoolboy [Walter, obviously] finding a dead baby in a box – hardly a laugh a minute riot – but there’s so much charm to be found as the book progresses, even though the bleak things Walter goes through in his formative years are fairly relentless. 

Read More: Growing up Scottish – nine reads to add to your TBR

‘I didn’t feel,’ Kirkland says, ‘That any slice of life Scottish fiction would sell to a publisher. So I thought I would put this murder mystery element into it and connect it to Walter’s personal development. But there must have been something in the water because at the same time Shuggie Bain came out, and God bless it, I realised I actually could have done just the normal slice of life story. Then Duck Feet came out, and Blessed Assurance, all these Scottish coming-of-age novels while I thought I was doing something different! They’re all kind of in the same wheelhouse. We were all drawing on the same kind of cosmic force.

‘I do find myself drawn towards dark subjects but almost without realising it I always put comedy in too. I think it’s something that’s going to stay in all my work, that sense of the absurd, or everyday surrealism. It’s just very natural to me and I can’t help but put both in. Happiness Is Wasted On Me was a very dark book and I worried that it was maybe too dark. But thankfully the lighter parts of my own personality made it’s way into the writing and I’m really glad of that because it stops it being too bleak.

‘It’s so Scottish. Like, people might have the most horrible stories about alcoholism or drugs or anything, people that have gone through such hardship, and yet they can laugh about it as well. It’s like an aspect of our collective Scottish psyche where you’ve got to laugh or you’ll cry.’

I would get up every morning and read teletext and take notes and say to my mates, “Oh have you heard this new band called Placebo?”

Barely a page will go by in Happiness Is Wasted On Me before there’s some kind of pop culture reference, whether music or TV or film, the book is packed with these Easter egg like references that will delight any 80s or 90s kid. With Walter growing up in the 90s, at the same time as Kirkland did, he once again draws from his own life experiences to add richness to both character and story. 

‘I actually loved the 90s. It’s not a perfect decade by any means but, culturally speaking, so much went on. You had grunge, you had Britpop, you had all kinds of different artistic movements going on, you had all the really good films. The political situation with the Tories leaving and New Labour coming in. So the 90s is fertile ground for a backdrop for a story.

‘But I liked the idea that as the character gets older, things around them change, but he remains almost the same. When you’re writing about young people, or dealing with young people, you know that teenagers speak about their favourite things. All of them trying to find the next new bands, and who’s going to find the best new band and sell it to all your friends and be the one that discovered it. I would get up every morning and read Teletext and take notes and say to my mates, “Oh have you heard this new band called Placebo?” And that’s an experience that’s going to always be around as long as teenagers are around. 

‘So yeah, I do like pop culture references and I think a good pop culture reference speaks for the characters themselves. It can be character building: the sort of films they watch, books they read and songs they listen to. It tells you a lot about a person and I suppose, from a writer’s perspective, that’s really useful to use. 

It’s an important book to me, it has so much about me in it and so much that I wanted to say.

Happiness Is Wasted On Me was released at the height of the pandemic in 2020 when everything was closed and there was no chance of a live book tour let alone an open book shop. Initially slated for a March 2020 release, after signing a contract with Fledgling towards the end of 2019, the book was pushed to the autumn due to the pandemic. 

Of his route to publication Kirkland said, ‘All in all it was a very smooth process [up to that point] and it was really nice that I got everything I wanted for the book. We were all set to put the book out in March of 2020…and I knew about the virus in China, we all did, but I just didn’t realise how serious it was. Then people started to die and it just felt really dark and horrible…and then it came here.’

The last thing anyone needs is a rehash of all we’ve been through over the past 18 months but putting a book out into the world while the world is closed has proven to be as difficult as you’d expect. 

“Housing, Cumbernauld” by The JR James Archive, University of Sheffield is licensed underCC BY-NC 2.0

‘So the book couldn’t come out in March,’ Kirkland says, ‘And I understood that. But the virus weaponised the advantage that we have of having audiences in a book shop, or library. The best thing about putting a book out is getting to meet people, you get to read your book to them and in my case, getting to perform. I had ideas of how this was going to go, for my first adult novel and it feels like my first book to be honest. I wanted to tour and go to the cool venues, punk rock clubs, theatres and libraries….

‘And it didn’t happen.’

By autumn, the publishing industry was starting to get back to normal, Shuggie Bain was out creating a buzz about Scottish fiction, and an online, digital launch was held. ‘It was brilliant,’ Kirkland said, ‘But you still don’t get what you really wanted from it. It was difficult because my emotional state was really tied up in this book. It’s an important book to me, has so much about me in it and so much that I wanted to say. It was just a lot to deal with at the time.

‘The journey was slow and I did feel cheated at first, but you do have to think of the bigger picture.’

‘It feels almost punk, there’s a real energy there’

The novel is now headed for a well-deserved second print run to coincide with the world opening back up again, as such, Kirkland was able to have his first in-person event for the book at The Book Nook in Stirling very recently. 

‘When you go into a book shop and see that table full of Scottish books it does feel like kind of a renaissaince. Some might say its tokenistic but it’s still always at the front of the shop or prominently positioned and that’s helped sell Happiness Is Wasted On Me. I’ve actually seen someone pick it up then walk to the till with it! (I never jumped out at the them or anything though incase they thought I was some kind of serial killer). 

‘But at least these books are getting picked up now and they’re trying to sell them.’

On the gear change we’ve been seeing in publishing over recent years, in terms of more marginalised and working class voices finally getting heard and published, Kirkland admits it’s something he thinks about a lot. ‘Sometimes I think the Scottish publishing industry is really middle class and it can be difficult, at times, to know where you fit in. Sometimes I feel like I do fit in and other times I feel like the book didn’t get the innings it deserved. I did get a lot of support and it’s nice to know that people enjoyed it but I hoped it would maybe get into the mainstream more. 

‘I think it might [get that mainstream attention] now, because other working class voices are breaking through and it’s becoming more and more prevalent. I think it’s important that Scottish writers are telling Scottish stories as well. I think it’s good that we’re getting that kind of prominence. 

‘I was in Waterstones the other day and O Caledonia, which was out of print for years, is back in print again. And I can’t help but think that that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for all these new stories coming out. It’s nice that that’s happening. And of course you’ve got folk like Chris McQueer and 404 Ink that really push that kind of mentality in a sense.

‘It feels almost punk, there’s a real energy there with all the people starting blogs and making Instagram posts and just supporting any way they can. It feels good. I feel for the first time like I’m in the right place at the right time.’ 

You can find Kirkland’s own website here (click click) and he’s also on Instagram and Twitter

Read our review of Happiness Is Wasted On Me here.

Part One: Scottish LGBTQIA+ reads – novels and collections to add to your TBR lists

It’s Pride Month so we’re celebrating here at ScotLitDaily! And it’s been a minute since our last Book List so here’s another collection of books to add to your TBR stacks.

Trumpet by Jackie Kay

The death of legendary jazz trumpeter Joss Moody exposes an extraordinary secret. Unbeknown to all but his wife Millie, Joss was a woman living as a man. The discovery is most devastating for their adopted son, Colman, whose bewildered fury brings the press to the doorstep and sends his grieving mother to the sanctuary of a remote Scottish village.

Winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize, Trumpet by Jackie Kay is a starkly beautiful modern classic about the lengths to which people will go for love. It is a moving story of a shared life founded on an intricate lie, of loving deception and lasting devotion, and of the intimate workings of the human heart.

Now regarded as a classic and for good reason. I first read Trumpet when I was at uni and I’m well overdue a re-read.


Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz by Ely Percy

A plucky, on-the-nose, heart-mending comedy about a bunch of queer folks trying to find their way and going about life where not a single queer person dies. 

The novel’s focal point is a gay bar, a world that most folk aren’t exposed to – but this is Vicky Romeo’s ordinary world. Ely captures a perfect snapshot of this locum, of what it was like to be Scottish, working-class, queer and figuring shit out in that period of queer history.

The debut novel of the amazing Ely Percy. If you were a big fan of their recent Duck Feet definitely check this one out next.


Goblin by Ever Dundas

Goblin is an oddball and an outcast. But she’s also a dreamer, a bewitching raconteur, a tomboy adventurer whose spirit can never be crushed. Running feral in World War II London, Goblin witnesses the carnage of the Blitz and sees things that can never be unseen…but can be suppressed. She finds comfort in her beloved animal companions and lives on her wits with friends real and imagined, exploring her own fantastical world of Lizard Kings and Martians and joining the circus.

In 2011, London is burning once again, and an elderly Goblin reluctantly returns to the city. Amidst the chaos of the riots, she must dig up the events of her childhood in search of a harrowing truth. But where lies truth after a lifetime of finding solace in an extraordinary imagination, where the distinction between illusion and reality has possibly been lost forever?


Venus as a Boy by Luke Sutherland

Drinking late one night in an East End club, a writer is approached by Pascal, the friend of a man named Désirée who claims he knows the writer from growing up in Orkney – and that he’s dying and wants him to write his story. The writer ignores him.

But a month later, a package arrives containing, among discs, sunglasses and other trinkets, a photograph of the writer aged eight. So he listens to the discs and emerges amazed and shaken. He then transcribes this heartbreaking story which traces Désirée’s life as a bullied youth in South Ronaldsay to the streets of Soho where he reduces his grateful clients to tears with his astonishing gift of sex…


Ever Fallen in Love by Zoe Strachan

Richard fell for Luke at university. Luke was handsome, dissolute, dangerous; together they did things that Richard has spent the last decade trying to forget. Now his career is on the brink of success, but his younger sister Stephie’s life is in pieces. Her invasion of Richard’s remote west coast sanctuary forces Richard to confront the tragedy and betrayal of his past, and face up to his own role in what happened back then.

In this compelling, visceral tale of how not to fit in, Zoë Strachan takes us on a journey through hedonistic student days to the lives we didn t expect to end up living, and the hopes and fears that never quite leave us.


The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan

Mara’s island is one of stories and magic, but every story ends in the same way. She will finish her days on the cliff, turned to stone and gazing out at the horizon like all the islanders before her.

Mara’s parents – a boxer and a ballerina – chose this enchanted place as a refuge from the turbulence of their previous lives; they wanted to bring up their children somewhere special and safe. But the island and the sea don’t care what people want, and when they claim a price from her family, Mara’s world unravels. It takes the arrival of Pearl, mysterious and irresistible, to light a spark in Mara again, and allow her to consider a different story for herself.


Happiness is Wasted on Me by Kirkland Ciconne

Cumbernauld was built to be the town of the future…that is, if the future looked like a really rubbish episode of Doctor Who. It’s also home to Walter Wedgeworth, a child stuck in a uniquely dysfunctional family controlled by the tyrannical Fishtank, whose CB Radio aerial is a metal middle finger to all the neighbours on Craigieburn Road.

When 11-year-old Walter discovers the corpse of a baby inside a cardboard box, he resolves to ignore it, pretend it didn’t happen. He knows the price of being a grass. But the child’s fate haunts Walter, bringing him into conflict with the world around him. Walter’s journey will lead him from childhood to adulthood; school, college, bereavement, Britpop, his first job, Blackpool, the Spice Girls, feuds with his neighbour, and finally…face-to-face with a child killer. Taking place in the 90s, Happiness Is Wasted On Me is a genre-blending tale that spans a decade in the life of Walter. It’s a coming of age tale, a family drama, a mystery, and a biting dark comedy. Ultimately, it’s the story of how even the strangest people can find their way in the world.

Do we mention this book a lot? Aye. Is it warranted? Also aye. For some gorgeous asexual rep look no further than this absolute gem of a book.


Amphibian by Christina Neuwirth

It’s summer in Edinburgh. Rose Ellis arrives at MoneyTownCashGrowth one morning to find that the entire fourth floor has been flooded with water, in a desperate attempt to improve productivity.

As the water steadily rises, her working situation becomes more and more absurd…


Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith

Girl meets boy. It’s a story as old as time. But what happens when an old story meets a brand new set of circumstances?

Ali Smith’s remix of Ovid’s most joyful metamorphosis is a story about the kind of fluidity that can’t be bottled and sold. It is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, a story of puns and doubles, reversals and revelations. Funny and fresh, poetic and political, here is a tale of change for the modern world.


Wain by Rachel Plummer

Wain is a collection of LGBT themed poetry for teens based on retellings of Scottish myths. The collection contains stories about kelpies, selkies, and the Loch Ness Monster, alongside perhaps lesser-known mythical people and creatures, such as wulvers, Ghillie Dhu, and the Cat Sìth. These poems immerse readers in an enriching, diverse and enchanting vision of contemporary life.

The poems in this collection are fun, surprising, and full of a magical mix of myth and contemporary LGBT themes- it is a perfect read for teens who are learning more about themselves, other people, and the world around them. Wain is fully illustrated, and aimed at teenagers.


Tonguit by Harry Josephine Giles

This expansive collection by one of Scotland’s outstanding performers is a moving exploration of identity, and how it is warped and changed by our languages, nationalities, and the often inhuman machinations of the State.

Tonguit stands as a collage of the early 21st century; of growing intolerance, the rise of ATOS, the bedroom tax, growing protest movements, the homogenisation of politics, and beneath it all humanity, trying to love and laugh and live.


Look out for a follow up post on non-fiction reads next week.

Have you read any of these books? Or have any of them on your TBR? Talk to us in the comments or follow us on Instagram for a blether.

You can find most of these books in our own Bookshop at bookshop.org – if you choose to buy from our shop we will receive a small commission which will be equally split between a donation to the Scottish Book Trust at the end of the year and keeping this blog running.

Growing up Scottish: nine reads to add to your TBR

Booker Prize winner Shuggie Bain is a gorgeously written yet brutal and emotive story of one boy growing up in Glasgow as the son of an alcoholic mother. But it’s just one of the many different experiences of growing up Scottish that have been depicted in our homegrown literature. So if Shuggie Bain whetted your appetite for a good ol’ bildungsroman (not a word you can shoehorn into most conversations so yay for an excuse) here’s a list of nine more to add to your TBR.

Boyracers by Alan Bissett

Boyracers is the story of 16 year old Falkirk lad Alvin and his three older mates. Their days involve racing around town in a car called Belinda and debating film and music. Alvin has to overcome all the usual teenage problems – romantic entanglements and deciding what the hell to do with his life. Published in the early 2000s it’s just as relevant today and a well-deserved cult classic.

Good to know: If you loved the book you can find out what happened to Alvin and his pals next in Pack Men.


Duck Feet by Ely Percy

Duck Feet is a coming-of-age novel, set in the mid-noughties in Renfrew and Paisley, Scotland. It follows the lives of 12-year-old Kirsty Campbell and her friends as they navigate life from first to sixth year at Renfrew Grammar school. This book is a celebration of youth in an ever-changing world. It uses humour to tackle hard-hitting subjects such as drugs, bullying, sexuality, and teenage pregnancy. But moreover, it is a relatable and accessible portrait of figuring out who you are, plunging into the currents of life, and most of all, finding hope.

Read Aiden’s review of Duck Feet here


The Young Team by Graeme Armstrong

2005. Glasgow is named Europe’s Murder Capital, driven by a violent territorial gang and knife culture. In the housing schemes of adjacent Lanarkshire, Scotland’s former industrial heartland, wee boys become postcode warriors.

2004. Azzy Williams joins the Young Team [YTP]. A brutal gang conflict with their deadly rivals, the Young Toi [YTB] begins.

2012. Azzy dreams of another life. He faces his toughest fight of all – the fight for a different future.

Expect Buckfast. Expect bravado. Expect street philosophy. Expect rave culture. Expect anxiety. Expect addiction. Expect a serious facial injury every six hours. Expect murder.

Hope for a way out.

Read our The Young Team reviews here and here.


The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

Fifteen-year old Anais Hendricks is smart, funny and fierce, but she is also a child who has been let down, or worse, by just about every adult she has ever met. Sitting in the back of a police car, she finds herself headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders where the social workers are as suspicious as its residents. But Anais can’t remember the events that have led her there, or why she has blood on her school uniform…

We featured Jenni Fagan’s second novel The Sunlight Pilgrims in our featured Dystopian Reads.


Kieron Smith, Boy by James Kelman

Rejected by his brother and largely ignored by his parents, Kieron Smith finds comfort – and endless stories – in the home of his much-loved grandparents. But when his family move to a new housing scheme on the outskirts of Glasgow, a world away from the close community of the tenements, Kieron struggles to find a way to adapt to his new life.

Kieron Smith, boy is a brilliant evocation of an urban childhood. Capturing the joys, frustrations, injustices, excitements, revels, battles, games, uncertainties, questions, lies, discoveries and sheer of wonder of boyhood, it is a story of one boy and every boy. It is James Kelman at his very best.


Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan

Everyone has a Tully Dawson: the friend who defines your life.

In the summer of 1986, in a small Scottish town, James and Tully ignite a brilliant friendship based on music, films and the rebel spirit. With school over and the locked world of their fathers before them, they rush towards the climax of their youth: a magical weekend in Manchester, the epicentre of everything that inspires them in working-class Britain. There, against the greatest soundtrack ever recorded, a vow is made: to go at life differently. Thirty years on, half a life away, the phone rings. Tully has news.

Mayflies is a memorial to youth’s euphorias and to everyday tragedy. A tender goodbye to an old union, it discovers the joy and the costs of love.

Read Aiden’s review of Mayflies here.


Happiness is wasted on me by Kirkland Ciccone

Cumbernauld was built to be the town of the future…that is, if the future looked like a really rubbish episode of Doctor Who.

It’s also home to Walter Wedgeworth, a child stuck in a uniquely dysfunctional family controlled by the tyrannical Fishtank, whose CB Radio aerial is a metal middle finger to all the neighbours on Craigieburn Road. When 11-year-old Walter discovers the corpse of a baby inside a cardboard box, he resolves to ignore it, pretend it didn’t happen.

He knows the price of being a grass.

But the child’s fate haunts Walter, bringing him into conflict with the world around him. Walter’s journey will lead him from childhood to adulthood; school, college, bereavement, Britpop, his first job, Blackpool, the Spice Girls, feuds with his neighbour, and finally…face-to-face with a child killer.

Taking place in the 90s, Happiness Is Wasted On Me is a genre-blending tale that spans a decade in the life of Walter. It’s a coming of age tale, a family drama, a mystery, and a biting dark comedy. Ultimately, it’s the story of how even the strangest people can find their way in the world.

Read our review of Happiness is Wasted on Me here.


Sonny and Me by Ross Sayers

‘Whoever said yer school days are the best days ae yer life was at the absolute wind up. I hink maist adults dinnae mind whit it was really like. Wait til yeese hear whit Sonny and me got detention for…’

Daughter and Sonny are two best friends just trying to get through fourth year at high school. But when their favourite teacher leaves unexpectedly, and no one will say why, the boys decide to start their own investigation. As they dig deeper into the staff at Battlefield High, they discover a dark secret which one person will kill to protect…Will they uncover the truth without being expelled? Can their friendship survive when personal secrets are revealed? And will they manage to skive off double English?

Divided City by Theresa Breslin

A young man lies bleeding in the street.

It could be any street, in any city. But it’s not. It’s Glasgow. And it’s May – the marching season. The Orange Walks have begun.

Graham doesn’t want to be involved. He just wants to play football with his new mate, Joe. But when he witnesses a shocking moment of violence, suddenly he and Joe are involved. With Catholics, and with Protestants. With a young Muslim asylum-seeker, and his girlfriend. With all the old rivalries – and fears . . .

A gripping tale about two boys who must find their own answers – and their own way forward – in a world divided by differences.


Have you read any of these books? Or have any of them on your TBR? Talk to us in the comments or follow us on Instagram for a blether.

You can find most of these books in our own Bookshop at bookshop.org – if you choose to buy from our shop we will receive a small commission which will be equally split between a donation to the Scottish Book Trust at the end of the year and keeping this blog running.